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National Current Affairs
National Current Affairs August 3rd Week 2017
Author : Admin
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National Current Affairs August 3rd Week 2017

1. Gabriel Chundan won 65th Nehru Trophy.

Gabriel chundan (snake boat) won the 65th Nehru Trophy Boat Race at the Punnamada lake in Alappuzha on Saturday. The chundans that entered the finals were Mahadevikad Thekkathil, Payippadan, Karichal, and Gabriel. Mahadevikad came second and Payippadan stood third.

Defects in the mechanical starting device posed problems at the starting point in the afternoon, after two heats of the chundan races were over. This caused the races to be delayed. The organisers had introduced a new device that was claimed to be foolproof.

The starting point had been a bone of contention on several occasions in the past. The new device was set up to ensure a trouble-free commencement of the race. Owners of boat clubs and rowers became restive as there was an undue delay. Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, District Collector Veena N. Madhavan and other officials went to the spot and managed to resolve the issue. Complaints of inclusion of rowers from other States beyond the stipulated 25% by certain boat clubs also marred the race.

2.  ‘Fete de Puducherry’ Festival celebrated in Pondicherry.

Fete de Puducherry Festival celebrated in Pondicherry

Pondicherry is a store house of varieties. The mishmash of culture and heritage can be witnessed in this tiny piece of land. The land not only bears a rich historical significance but also stands out for its cultural heritage. Pondicherry was under the French dominance for 300 years which created a merge of customs and ethnicity. Various traditions, art and culture unite to form one that attracts tourists from every corner of the world.

Description

After achieving freedom from French dominance, the government of Pondicherry organizes the Fete De Pondicherry to celebrate the liberation of Pondicherry from any foreign dominance. 

The occasion takes place for three days and these days are celebrated with great pomp and grandeur. Different music and dance performances are organized to affirm the example of Pondicherry’s rich culture. Various categories of performances, competitions and other exhibition programs make the celebration a grand one. This fete is a cultural pageant and the Park Monument with its wonderfully decorated lights look splendid and all the celebrations take place in the nearby area.

Time to celebrate

The fete is celebrated annually on the occasion of liberation day and the Independence Day of Pondicherry and India respectively. From August 15th to August 17th the days are regarded as the Fete De Pondicherry and this create a heavy inflow of tourists in the Union Territory. 

Pondicherry is a well equipped with all the kinds of hotels and resorts that accommodate various tourists with different budgets.

 

 3. Air Asia India Offers Rs. 1,399 Tickets In Limited-Period Scheme.

Air Asia India Offers Rs. 1,399 Tickets In Limited-Period Scheme 
Amid airlines announcing fare discounts on the occasion of Independence Day, AirAsia India has announced all-inclusive tickets priced at Rs. 1,399 on select routes in a limited-period offer. Tickets under AirAsia India`s new scheme, called "Dare to Dream" offer, can be booked till August 20, 2017, according to the airline`s website. 

AirAsia India`s special scheme requires flyers to make advanced bookings, it noted on its website. The AirAsia India offer is applicable on bookings made for travel till February 8, 2018, it added.

Under the AirAsia scheme, the lowest all-inclusive fare of Rs. 1,399 was being offered for one-way flights on the routes of Hyderabad-Bengaluru, Kochi-Bengaluru and Goa-Bengaluru. On the Bagdogra-Kolkata route, the tickets started at Rs. 1,499, according to AirAsia`s website.
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Starting fares offered on other routes included Rs. 1,599 on the Bhubaneswar-Kolkata and Ranchi-Kolkata routes, and Rs. 1,699 on the Guwahati-Imphal route. Tickets for flights between Kochi and Hyderabad, Hyderabad and Goa, Pune and Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru, and between Srinagar and Delhi were being offered from Rs. 1,999, it showed.

A search on the AirAsia India`s bookings portal on Tuesday showed tickets for a flight from Bengaluru to Hyderabad later this month were being sold at Rs. 1,399.
 
4. India to tribute Sri Aurobindo on 145th Birth Anniversary.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to philosopher and sage Sri Aurobindo on his 145th Birth Anniversary. PM took to Twitter and shared a post saying, “I pay my tributes to Sri Aurobindo on his Jayanti. His rich thoughts & grand vision for India continue to be a great source of inspiration.” Earlier in the day Prime Minister 

Modi greeted the nation on the occasion of India’s 71st Independence Day and Krishna Janmashtami. He wrote, “Independence Day greetings to my fellow Indians. Jai Hind. Greetings on Janmashtami.”

PM Narendra Modi today addressed the nation at the historic Red Fort in New Delhi. This is the 4th time when Narendra Modi unfurled the national flag on August 15 as the Prime Minister. During his speech at the event, PM talked about a variety of issues ranging from triple talaq to terrorism. While talking about triple talaq, he mentioned those women who have to suffer due to ‘Tripe Talaq’ and said, “I admire their courage. We are with them in their struggles.” 2017 marks the 71st year of 

India’s Independence. “A movement against Triple Talaq has started in the country. I admire the courage of my sisters who are fighting against it,” he said.
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The PM Narendra Modi government today launched an online portal for the gallantry award winners at gallantryawards.gov.in. According to a PIB release, “The website gives details of the Chakra Series awardees i.e., Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra. The portal contains information such as name, unit, year, citations and photographs of awardees till date. The Ministry of Defence would welcome any feedback or suggestion for further improvement.”
 
5. CCEA approves procedure and mechanism for Strategic Disinvestment.
CCEA approves procedure and mechanism for Strategic Disinvestment
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved revision in the procedure and mechanism for strategic disinvestment. 

In this regard, the proposal was forwarded by the Department of Investment and public Asset Management (DIPAM). The approval will help in speedy completion of strategic disinvestment transactions.

Revised mechanism for strategic disinvestment
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Setting up an Alternative Mechanism (AM): It will decide on the matters relating to terms and conditions of the sale from the stage of inviting of Express of Interests (Eols) till inviting of financial bid. It will consist of the Finance Minister, Minister for Road Transport & Highways and Minister of Administrative Department. 

Empowering the Core Group of Secretaries (CGD): It will enable CGD to take policy decisions with regard to procedural issues and consider deviations as necessary from time to time for effective implementation of decisions of CCEA.

Strategic Disinvestment

In Strategic disinvestment, significant proportion of a Public Sector Unit’s (PSU) share and the management control goes to a private sector which is considered as strategic partner. It is different from the ordinary disinvestment in which management of PSU is retained with Government.

Department of Investment and public Asset Management (DIPAM)

DIPAM is the nodal agency of Union Finance Ministry mandated to advise the Union Government in the matters of financial restructuring of PSUs and also for attracting investment through capital markets. It will also deal with all matters relating to sale of Union Government’s equity in PSUs through private placement or offer for sale or any other mode in the erstwhile Central PSUs.
 
6. NPPA caps prices of orthopaedic knee implants.
NPPA caps prices of orthopaedic knee implants
The drug price regulator National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority (NPPA) has capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants upto 70% lower than current market rates. 

It will be valid for all orthopaedic knee implants sold within India – whether domestic or imported. Earlier in February 2017, the NPPA had capped the prices of stents used in cardiac surgery.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimation, osteoarthritis is going to be the fourth largest cause of immobility in globally by 2020. NPPA in its preliminary analysis had found that importers, distributors and hospitals are earning hefty trade margins ranging from 67% to as high as 449% orthopaedic knee implants.

Capped Prices

 

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Now, the most widely used Cobalt chromium knee implant will cost around Rs. 55000 instead of current average price of over Rs. 1.58 lakh. Titanium Oxidized Zirconium surgery implant has been capped at Rs.76,600 against the current average prices of Rs.2.5 to 4.50 lakh. The High flexibility implant costing from Rs. 1.80 to 4.5 lakh has been capped at Rs. 56,490. The revision implants for second surgery has been capped at over Rs. 1.13 lakh. Besides, the Specialized implants for cancer and tumor will be charged at over Rs. 1.13 lakh.

This decision has been taken keeping people’s interest and health security of the nation into consideration. It is considered as a major relief to patients suffering from knee problems. It will help check unethical profiteering in the implant surgery. It will benefit around 1.5 to 2 crore knee patients and result in savings of Rs 1,500 crore annually to patients requiring surgery.

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)
NPPA is an independent body under Department of Pharmaceuticals under the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Its functions are to fix/revise the controlled bulk drugs prices and formulations, enforce prices and availability of the medicines under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995/2013, recover amounts overcharged by manufacturers for the controlled drugs from the consumers and monitor the prices of decontrolled drugs in order to keep them at reasonable levels.
 
7. Cabinet approves creation non-lapsable Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh.
Cabinet approves creation non-lapsable Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh 
The Union Cabinet has approved creation of a single corpus fund non-lapsable known as Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh (MUSK).

Under it, all proceeds of secondary and higher education cess will be credited and utilised for the government’s schemes in education sector.

 

Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh (MUSK)

 


The funds arising from MUSK will be utilised for schemes in education sector, which will be available for benefit of students of secondary and higher education all over the country. It will be administered and maintained by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The MUSK will be maintained as a Reserve Fund in the non-interest bearing section of the Public Accounts of India. It will be operationalised as per the present arrangements under Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK) wherein the proceeds of cess are used for Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Schemes. 
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The expenditure on ongoing schemes of the HRD Ministry will be initially incurred from the gross budgetary support (GBS) in any financial year and the expenditure will be financed from MUSK only after the GBS is exhausted.

During the 10th Plan, an education cess of 2% was levied on all central taxes from 2004 to make available additional resources for basic education/elementary education to augment the existing budgetary resources. Later in 2007, additional cess of 1% on central taxes (called Secondary and Higher Education Cess) was levied through Finance Act, 2007 to give fillip for universalizing access to secondary education and expanding the reach of the higher education sector. In February 2016, HRD Ministry had sought the approval of the Department of Economic Affairs for creation of non-lapsable fund in the Public Account called MUSK.
 
8. Reliance Communications merger with Aircel got National Company Law Tribunal.
Reliance Communications merger with Aircel got National Company Law Tribunal 
The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Monday admitted Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom)’s petition for merging its wireless division with telecom firm Aircel Ltd. The tribunal has also admitted RCom’s petition for a 51% stake sale in its telecom tower arm to Canada-based Brookfield Infrastructure. The tribunal will issue final orders on 13 September.Shares of RCom rose as high as 18.80% during the day; they ended at Rs24.10, up 16.14% from the previous close.

The spin-off and merger of its wireless division along with strategic stake sale in tower business is crucial for the Anil Ambani-led firm to pare its debt at a time when the entire telecom industry’s profits is being squeezed by the aggressive pricing policies of new entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries).

RCom expects to net Rs11,000 crore from the stake sale in tower assets and a transfer of Rs14,000 crore of debt to the merged entity. Together, this will cut the firm’s nearly Rs45,000 crore debt by 40%.

A spokesperson for RCom declined to comment as the matter is sub-judice.

The company needs to complete these transactions by December. In early June, RCom’s creditors allowed the company to postpone debt servicing payments till December after it presented this restructuring plan. In this standstill period, banks will not convert debt they are owed into equity and the company’s debt will be classified as standard debt in the books of lenders.

The merger has already been approved by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Competition Commission of India and the stock exchanges. Some of RCom’s creditors such as China Development Bank who had earlier objected to the deal as it was not presented to them before being filed with the tribunal have also given a conditional consent to the deal.
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However, in an affidavit filed at the tribunal, the telecom department said the Supreme Court had restrained Aircel from selling and trading 2G spectrum allotted to it in 2006 in a 6 January order. At that time, RCom told the tribunal it had already submitted the proposed scheme of arrangement to the Supreme Court and the court has so far not raised any objection or issued observations.

Separately, Swedish network provider Ericsson had filed an objection to the proposed merger deal citing dues of about Rs1,100 crore recoverable from Aircel.

“The merger will reduce debt in RCom. As with any merger transaction, this deal if it goes smoothly, is expected to reduce costs for the merged entity,” said Harsh Jagnani, vice-president at ratings agency Icra Ltd.

Reliance Group companies have sued HT Media Ltd, Mint’s publisher, and nine others in the Bombay high court over a 2 October 2014 front-page story that they have disputed. HT Media is contesting the case.
 
9. ‘Indira Canteen Scheme’ Launched in Bengaluru.
‘Indira Canteen Scheme’ Launched in Bengaluru 
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday launched the Indira Canteen scheme—a state government initiative named after former prime minister Indira Gandhi—aimed at providing food at low cost to the urban poor.

The canteen, located at Kanakanapalya in Jayanagar, an upscale locality in Bengaluru, is one of 101 such across various locations in the city on Wednesday.

To be sure, many of the Indira Canteens did not open for service on Wednesday.

The canteens are loosely modelled on late Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s ‘Amma Canteens’. The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka is aiming to push its populist agenda in a city where its main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to have a strong presence in terms of assembly seats.

“There are millions of people in Bangalore; construction workers, people who own little shops, auto-rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, barbers. People who don’t make that much money and it is those people that this Indira Canteen is targeted at,” Gandhi said.

The Indira Canteen will serve three meals unlike the Amma Canteens which only serves breakfast and lunch.

In his budget speech earlier this year, Siddaramaiah announced ‘Namma Canteens’ in all 198 wards of Bengaluru which would serve breakfast at Rs5 and lunch and dinner at Rs10.
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The name was later changed to Indira Canteens as a tribute to the former prime minister on her 100th birth anniversary.

So far, Siddaramaiah’s Indira Canteens—the scheme has a budget of Rs100 crore—have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. There has been talk of misuse of funds, and the canteens have come under fire for their location (some are inside parks and temples, and a few have come up in heritage structures). The state government has been in a hurry to set them up ahead of next year’s assembly elections.

Siddaramaiah also announced the setting up of ‘Saviruchi canteens’ in other parts of the state (across 30 districts) this year.

“Programmes for the poor must be done in a hurry,” Siddaramaiah said, clarifying that no playground or park was illegally encroached upon to set up the canteens as alleged by opposition political parties.

Siddaramaiah said that the remaining 97 canteens will be inaugurated on 2 October, taking the total to 198 across Bengaluru.

R.V. Devaraj, a Congress legislator from Chickpet in Bengaluru, said that each canteen would be able to serve 300 meals each for breakfast, lunch and dinner (a total of 900 meals). Going by that math, Indira Canteens (when all 198 are opened) will serve over 178,000 meals in a city that has a population of over 10 million.

Political parties like the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) have also forayed into the subsidized food service space. T.A. Sharavana, a JD(S) member of the Karnataka legislative council, opened the first such venture, ‘Namma Deve Gowda Appaji Canteen’, in Bengaluru on 2 August (bit.ly/2uHQNVm).

The popularity of Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu inspired similar ventures in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh but without the same success.

Chandan Gowda, political analyst and professor of sociology at the Azim Premji University, said that subsidized food services in urban areas is a populist move aimed at poor and lower middle class voters.
 
10. India has 27,312 elephants: 2017 Census Estmation.
India has 27,312 elephants: 2017 Census Estmation
 
According to the census report, released by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) the population estimation of Asian elephant in India is around 27,312. 

The census was conducted between March and May 2017 by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) at the Indian Institute of Science (Bengaluru), several NGOs and independent conservationists aided the Project Elephant Directorate and forest departments of 23 states. It was first-ever synchronised all-India Elephant Population census that covered 1.10 lakh square kilometres and spanned four regions of the country: the northeast, south, east-central and north.

Key Highlights of the survey 
The population estimation of Asian elephants in 2017 census is lower than from the last census estimate in 2012 (between 29,391 and 30,711). Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).

The estimate was based on preliminary results from the first-ever synchronised all-India Elephant Population Estimation derived from the sighting-based direct count method alone. The final count will be confirmed with estimates from the indirect dung-count method in three months.

According to experts parallels cannot be drawn between 2012 and 2017 census, because in the 2012 census, various states had used different methodologies and it was not synchronised effort across the country. It might have caused errors and duplication that led to overestimation.
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The 2017 census indices indicate that the elephant population is increasing including birth rate and even their geographical range has increased. However, it shows marginal increase in elephant poulation ever since the 1990s. Due to habitat fragmentation, elephants are moving out to agricultural landscapes leading to an increase in man-elephant conflict resulting in both crop damage and loss of lives of elephants.
 
11. RBI Makes Aadhaar Linkage Mandatory for Farmers.
RBI Makes Aadhaar Linkage Mandatory for Farmers
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday advised commercial banks to make Aadhaar cards linkage mandatory for farmers to avail short-term crop loans in 2017-18.

The advice to all public and private sector scheduled commercial banks was sent through a RBI notification on the "Interest Subvention Scheme for Short Term Crop Loans during the year 2017-18" issued on Wednesday.

"To ensure hassle-free benefits to farmers under interest subvention scheme, the banks are advised to make Aadhaar linkage mandatory for availing short-term crop loans in 2017-18," the notification said.
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The development comes after the central government approved the implementation of the interest subvention scheme for the year 2017-18 for short-term crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh with some stipulations.

"In order to provide short-term crop loans upto Rs 3 lakh to farmers at an interest rate of 7 percent p.a. during the year 2017-18, it has been decided to offer interest subvention of 2 percent per annum to lending institutions viz Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Private Sector Commercial Banks (in respect of loans given by their rural and semi-urban branches only) on use of their own resources," the notification read.

"This interest subvention of 2 percent will be calculated on the crop loan amount from the date of its disbursement, drawal up to the date of actual repayment of the crop loan by the farmer or up to the due date of the loan fixed by the banks whichever is earlier, subject to a maximum period of one year."

"To provide relief to farmers affected by natural calamities, an interest subvention of 2 percent per annum will be made available to banks for the first year on the restructured loan amount. Such restructured loans will attract normal rate of interest from the second year onwards."
 
12. Cabinet clears stalled North Koel Reservoir project in Bihar.
Cabinet clears stalled North Koel Reservoir project in Bihar
 
The Union Cabinet approved proposal to complete the balance works of North Koel Reservoir Project in Bihar, stalled since 1993. It also revived the project to address environmental concerns. 

Under the revived project, storage of water in Mandal dam to be constructed under it will be will be restricted at lower level than envisaged earlier to reduce the submergence and to protect Betla National Park and Palamau Tiger Reserve. Moreover, a 24 MW power project as part of the original design also has been scrapped. 

Background

 

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The project is situated on the North Koel river, tributary on Sone River. It aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas in Jharkhand and Bihar. The construction of the projected originally had started in 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Bihar forest department over environmental concerns. The Mandal dam as part of the project had threatened to submerge portions of the Palamau Tiger Reserve and Betla National Park. The National Wildlife Board (NWB) had cleared the project in June 2017 with certain conditions. 

North Koel River
North Koel River rises on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand. It joins the Sone River (only right bank tributary of Ganga River) a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar. Its principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat. It meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
 
13. President Ram Nath Kovind asks mining companies to make policy for welfare of labourers.
President Ram Nath Kovind asks mining companies to make policy for welfare of labourers 
President Ram nath Kovind on Thursday urged the mining companies to make policies for welfare of laborers’ families and the society.

“I urge mining companies to make policies for welfare of labourers’ families and the society,” President Kovind said, while addressing the gathering at the National Safety Awards (Mines) event, where he also gave away the awards for the year 2013-2014 at the Vigyan Bhawan.

The occupational safety, health and welfare of persons were employed in all mines – coal, metalliferous and oil – all over the country comes under the sphere of the Central Government.

The Union Ministry of Labour launched the National Safety Awards (Mines) in the year 1982-83, to identify and encourage commendable performance for prevention of accidents in the mines.

These awards were given away for the first time in the year 1984 for the contest years 1982 and 1983 and thereafter, regularly every year.

There are 37 winner prizes and 34 runner-up prizes which were given to the winning mines in the award function organised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
 
14. Defence Ministry clears proposal to procure 6 Apache attack helicopters for Army.
Defence Ministry clears proposal to procure 6 Apache attack helicopters for Army 
The Indian Army will soon gets its first attack helicopters, after the Defence Ministry on Thursday cleared purchase of six Apache attack choppers at a cost of around Rs 4,168 crore. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitely also cleared another proposal for buying gas turbines from Ukraine for two Admiral Grigorovich class ships being made in Russia for India. Overall, the DAC cleared proposals worth Rs 4,600 crore, sources said.

The six Apache AH-64E choppers will come with associated equipment which include spares, training, weapons and ammunition.

The Indian Army has long asked for its own fleet of attack helicopters, and the Army and IAF had previously locked horns over who would keep the fleet. Former Air Force Chief N.A.K. 

Browne had said as per a Joint Army Air Instruction (JAAI) of 1986, the IAF would operate helicopters of all kinds and Army’s charter was limited to light utility helicopters.

At present the fleet of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters are with the Indian Air Force, and used by the Indian Army.

The helicopters are being bought under an option clause of 50 percent repeat order in the previous deal under which 22 Apache attack choppers were bought for the IAF. 
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The deadline for using the option clause is to end on September 28.
The other deal cleared by the DAC is for purchasing two gas turbine engines from Ukraine, which will then be given to Russia for two frigates that it is making for India. This will cost around Rs. 490 crore.

An inter-governmental agreement for four frigates through partnership between Russian and Indian shipyards was signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in October last year.

While two frigates will come from Russia, two others will be constructed at an Indian shipyard with Russian cooperation.

The class’s original gas turbines were made by Ukrainian state-owned enterprise Zorya-Mashproekt. With tension continuing between the two nations, Ukraine has refused to supply any more engines to Russia.

Sources added that the Defence Minister also took stock of other procurement proposals, and said there should be close monitoring and expeditious clearance of pending capital acquisitions, specially for those which are in advanced stages.
 
15. NHAI launches mobile App MyFASTag and FASTag Partner.
NHAI launches mobile App MyFASTag and FASTag Partner
National Highways Authority of India launched two mobile Apps - MyFASTag and FASTag Partner, to facilitate the availability of FASTags for Electronic Toll Collection. 

The NHAI Chairman Shri Deepak Kumar said the cumbersome method of purchase and recharge of FASTags has been one of the major challenges with the ETC project. The mobile Apps launched today will ease the process, making it possible to buy or recharge FASTags at the click of a mobile button.

MyFASTag is a consumer App that can be downloaded from the App Store for both Android and iOS systems. A consumer can purchase or recharge FASTags on this App. The App also helps to keep track of transactions and provides for online grievance redressal.
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FASTag Partner is a merchant App. Agencies like Common Services Centre, banking partners and vehicle dealers can sell and enroll FASTag through this App. In addition to this, the App can also be used to activate the RFID tags that came built in with around 74 lakh cars in the country following the 2013 Gazette Notification in this regard. These RFID tags are already fixed on the cars but are dormant. This App will convert these RFID tags into ETC Tag (FASTag).

Shri Deepak Kumar also informed that from 1st October 2017, all lanes of all 371 NHAI toll plazas in the country will become FASTag enabled. One lane in every toll plaza will be a dedicated FASTag lane where no other form of payment will be accepted. The other lanes, though FASTag enabled, can accept other forms of payment too. 

The dedicated FASTag lanes will become operational on all 371 NHAI toll plazas from 1st September 2017, he said.

In addition to the above, NHAI has also come up with Online sale of FASTags and offline sale through Common Services Centre (CSC) near toll plazas. FASTag can now be purchased online from Issuer Banks websites / NHAI website / IHMCL website and will be delivered by courier at the door step of the purchaser. Beginning tomorrow, 18th 

August, 2017, FASTags can also be bought from sale points of Common Services Centre (CSC) to be set up near toll plazas. CSC has a proven track record of making 20 crore Adhar Cards and achieving many other milestones of Digital India in short duration due to their vast network. It is expected that the association with CSC will give the ETC ecosystem a further boost.

More than 6 lakh FASTags have been sold so far. It is expected that these initiatives for improving the availability and access to FASTags will encourage more and more people to buy them. This will give the much needed push to the ETC project that aims to make travel more convenient, faster and environment friendly for people.
 
16. Environment Minister Launches “Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali” Campaign; urges children to celebrate Pollution-Free Diwali this Year.
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Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr.  Harsh Vardhan, launched the “Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali” campaign, here today.  Addressing a gathering of about 800 children from schools of Delhi and NCR, the Minister impressed upon the children the importance of their contribution towards reducing pollution by not bursting harmful fire crackers during Diwali.

 Congratulating the teachers and students, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that it is heartening to see that children have taken on the leadership role in combating air and noise pollution caused by burning of fire crackers during Diwali celebrations.  The Minister added that whenever children take up any task, they do not spare any effort in ensuring its success.  

He urged the children to also learn about the chemicals present in the fire crackers and the impact of these chemicals on various parts of the human body.    Dr. Harsh Vardhan impressed upon the children to celebrate this year’s Diwali by not buying fire crackers and instead buy a gift, food items, or sweets for the poor and underprivileged children living in their locality.
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Later, Dr. Harsh Vardhan also administered a Pledge for a Green and Healthy Diwali to the gathering of students.  The Pledge will be widely circulated to the schools/colleges and other educational institutions and the school administration will be requested to administer the said Pledge during their school assembly up to Diwali.  Students presented ‘Nukkad Nataks’ (street plays) and also sang “Prakriti Vandana” on the occasion. 

Speaking on the occasion, Secretary, MoEF&CC, Shri Ajay Narayan Jha expressed the hope that the message of celebrating “Harit & Swasth Diwali” will be taken across the country.  Shri Jha asked the children to buy earthen lamps and other such environment-friendly products.

As a part of the campaign, the Environment Ministry will undertake various activities to create awareness among various stakeholders and encourage people to participate in combating air pollution.

Diwali is an integral part of our rich tradition and a festival that embodies joy and happiness.  In recent times, the pattern of celebration has changed somewhat and has got associated with excessive bursting of crackers, which contributes significantly to air and noise pollution.  As a result, there has been a significant impact on the environment and health of the people. 

As has been the experience in the past few years, airborne pollution has been rising above safe limits during winter in many cities.  The excessive burning of crackers during Diwali aggravates the problem.  The pollution levels in Delhi last year, especially post Diwali, reached such levels that the government had to declare an emergency situation, which had socio-economic consequences like closing down of schools, construction sites and power stations. 

In October this year, India will be hosting FIFA U-17 World Cup. It is an important occasion and a matter for pride for India.  It is important for us to ensure that there is no inconvenience caused in the conduct of the event and our national image is protected and enhanced.

Some of the activities to promote Green Diwali among school children include stickers/logo distribution, poster competition, advertisement on public transport systems, public appeal using Radio/FM, involving industry associations and other stakeholders.  As a part of the social media campaign, an online competition will be conducted, where any individual/organisation can make a video/audio clip on the theme ‘Pollution Free Diwali’.  The best of these clips will be used officially to promote the theme across the country. 

Additional Secretaries, MoEF&CC, Shri Anil Kumar Jain and Shri A.K Mehta, besides senior officers and officials of Environment Ministry were among those present in the gathering.

17. Union Government to Conduct ‘World’s Largest Sample Survey’ for Students.

 Union Government to Conduct ‘World’s Largest Sample Survey’ for Students 
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has announced November 13 as the date for conducting its National Assessment Survey (NAS) for the students of class 3, 5, and 8, officials said on Wednesday.

The date was announced during a video conference held between the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar and the state education secretaries, directors, SCERT (State Council of Educational Research &Training) and project directors for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

The decision for the date was taken after “consulting each and every state regarding holidays or festivals to ensure full and smooth conduct,” a statement from the ministry said.

So far, during several rounds of the survey, a total of 4.45 lakh students have been tested for various learning outcomes.

“This time, approximately 30 lakh students will be assessed in the year 2017-18 making it the world’s largest sample survey of student learning achievement,” said the statement.
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“It is for the first time that the teachers will have a tool to understand what exactly the child should be learning in various classes... adding to this, for the first time there will be a detailed district-specific report card for all the districts in the country,” it added.

So far, NCERT has conducted four rounds of National Achievement Survey (NAS) for Class 5, three rounds for classes 3 and 8 and one round for Class 10.
18. BSNL launches Digital Wallet Powered by MobiKwik.
 
BSNL launches Digital Wallet Powered by MobiKwik
 
State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) on Thursday went digital by launching a bespoke mobile wallet (mobile payment App) that would enable its existing 100 million customers to make Bill payments and transact on e-commerce platforms.

This digital wallet was launched at an event by Manoj Sinha, Minister for Telecommunications in the capital.The wallet has been developed and issued by MobiKwik on behalf of BSNL.
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Speaking on the occasion, Anupam Srivastava, CMD, BSNL expressed hope that this BSNL mobile wallet will not only promote cashless economy but also enhance business for BSNL.

"Through this strategic partnership between BSNL and MobiKwik, we are taking another important milestone in achieving our Prime Minister Modi`s vision of enabling and making India a less-cash society based on the grand vision of digital India", Srivastava said.
 
19. Navika Sagar Parikrama: Indian Navy`s all-women team to circumnavigate blobe.
Navika Sagar Parikrama: Indian Navy`s all-women team to circumnavigate blobe
 
A six-member all-woman team of the Indian Navy will set sail to circumnavigate the globe on the sailing vessel INSV Tarini. This is the first-ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-woman crew.

The expedition has been aptly titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’ with an aim to promote women empowerment in the country and ocean sailing by the Indian Navy. 

Key Facts 

The voyage of Navika Sagar Parikrama will begin from Goa in the first week of September 2017 and culminate on their return in March 2018. The entire distance will be covered in five legs, with stop overs at four ports Fremantle (Australia), Lyttelton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands) and Cape Town (South Africa) for replenishment of ration and repairs as necessary. The project is considered essential towards promoting Ocean Sailing activities in the Indian Navy while depicting Union Government’s thrust for ‘Nari Shakti’ i.e. empowering women. 
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INSV Tarini INSV Tarini is a 55 foot sailing vessel has been built indigenously by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd, Goa. It was inducted into the Indian Navy in February 2017. INSV Tarini is the sister vessel of INSV Mhadei. Its mast is 25 metres and has been custom-built by M/s Southern Spars, Cape Town (South Africa), for sailing in extreme conditions. It carries a suite of six sails, including a main sail, head sails (Genoa and stay sails), downwind sails and storm sail. It has Raymarine navigation suite and an array of satellite communication systems on board through which contact can be made from anywhere. 

Earlier Expeditions The first Indian solo circumnavigation was undertaken by Captain (Retd) Dilip Donde from August 2009 to May 2010 onboard the Indian built vessel, INSV Mhadei. The first Indian non-stop solo circumnavigation was undertaken by Cdr Abhilash Tomy from November 2012 to March 2013.
 
20. Chief Election Commissioner inaugurates two-day Chief Electoral Officers’ Conference.
Chief Election Commissioner inaugurates two-day Chief Electoral Officers’ Conference
Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti and Election Commissioner OP Rawat inaugurated a two-day Chief Electoral Officers’ Conference in New Delhi on Friday.

Addressing the conference, Mr Joti stressed on the need of providing E-services to stakeholders and emphasised the requirement to develop E-Payment gateways for various election services of Election commission.

He underlined the need for extensive training programmes on Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as the Commission has decided to conduct all future elections using it along with Electronic Voting Machines.

The Chief Election Commissioner also stated that Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) should be developed as core area of election management.

Mr Rawat called upon all Chief Electoral Officers to avail the opportunity to share the experiences and good practices of each other and learn election management related issues from senior practitioners.
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He stated that all electoral practitioners must work together to reach the higher scale on electoral integrity with further strengthening Indian democracy.

Senior officers of the Commission also participated in the Conference by making presentations on pivotal issues like EVMs and VVPATs, Electoral Registration Officers’ Net, Electoral Roll, SVEEP, Expenditure Monitoring, Social Media, Paid News and other issues.

The event is being organised by the Election Commission of India to review performance as well as to explore new initiatives and improve the election management and voter experience.
 
21. Telecom Regulators of 23 Asia-Pacific countries to meet at Delhi.
Telecom regulators of 23 countries from the Asia-Pacific will meet in Delhi this month to discuss challenges in framing rules for digital ecosystem and regional roaming, among others.

Regulatory heads of Australia, Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, Fiji and some others are slated to attend the international meet.

"There is going to be very good discussion on evolving regulatory framework in the digital world. It is also going to discuss issues of regional importance like some of the regulators have told us that they would like to discuss the roaming issue," Trai Chairman R S Sharma told reporters on Sunday.

Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha is scheduled to inaugurate the roundtable on August 21 that is being jointly organised by the International Telecom Union and Trai.

Delegates from China, Mongolia, Bhutan, Cambodia and Indonesia have also confirmed their participation.

"TDSAT chairman will launch the two-day regulators international training programme. This will be a 5-day programme," Sharma said.

 

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